Brandenburg Celebrates

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Brandenburg Choir
Artistic Director: Paul Dyer
ABC 481 1929

You can’t go past some of the great works of the Baroque if you want to celebrate joy, passion, triumph and elegance, all traits of the astounding Australian Brandenburg Orchestra.

Brandenburg CAfter 25 years of continued success and audience favour, the ABO has carved its well-earned place in the history books for its attention to Baroque performance practice, its engaging programmes (both in live concert and in recorded format), as well as its ability to bring relevance to such music through its dynamic and striking performances.

Here on this CD, Paul Dyer not only has produced a recording of immense pleasure, but one which showcases the orchestra’s great mastery of the 17th and 18th century repertoire.

From a vibrant and driven opening of Handel’s Zadok the Priest, from Coronation Anthem No 1, to the Telemann Concerto in E minor for flute, violin and strings, this is virtuosity on an orchestral scale that is rarely heard. Take the 3rd movement (Presto) of the Telemann, for instance, which is truly breathtaking as the violin soloist powers through with the greatest of resolve.

Impeccable intonation and rhythmic vitality are hallmarks of this great ensemble and on this superb recording, listeners will rejoice with the orchestra, as they are swept up into a Baroque frenzy of decorative dazzle and elegant sparkle.

Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in A minor (RV 421) has exceptional solo passages played on a Baroque cello, providing an obviously different timbre, and executed with virtuosity.

Two examples of vastly different Concerto Grossi are included, with Geminiani’s No 12 in D minor “La Follia”, and Handel’s work in D, Op 3 No 6 (HWV 317), the former being a set of most intriguing variations, and the latter being unusual for its first movement, which is an ensemble piece (with short outbreaks of solos for oboes and bassoons), and the second movement, which is for solo organ, with orchestra providing an accompanying role.

Being introduced to many for the first time perhaps is the music of Brescianello, whose vivacious Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 1, No 4, and Chaconne in A is recorded here. A relatively unknown composer, his music is full of grace and Vivaldi influence.

To finish this recording is a premiere recording of a commissioned piece by Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin – Prelude and Cube. In the words of Paul Dyer, Prelude and Cube “pays homage to Bach, offering a glimpse into the world of the Baroque and a triumphant celebration of the Brandenburg.”
“My biggest challenge in writing this work,” said Kats-Chernin “was to feature every instrument”, a challenge even greater, with the inclusion of saxophone. Whilst Bach may be Kats-Chernin’s favourite composer, she did not want to quote directly from Bach’s works, but rather use devices and stylistic characteristics as references, albeit some of the vocal texts are drawn from Bach’s Magnificat.

Despite coming some 300 years later, Kats-Chernin’s new work fits within the output of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, for its highly acclaimed status within the Baroque music cognoscenti, since it has the same life, elegance, and sense of triumph. The Brandenburgers bring to this new work a similar passion and respect, making it a recording of great beauty and worth. It is a work of considerable merit sitting easily alongside the greats of the Baroque.

Fine Music to Air New HSC Program

(This article first appeared in the January 2016 edition of Fine Music magazine.)

In a new initiative by Fine Music, students, teachers and listeners will have the opportunity to hear and learn about the latest in Australian music.

With Jason Noble at the helm, listeners will discover concepts have their aural diet expanded, as new music is explored from both the performers’ and composers’ perspective.

Jason NobleDesigned to add to the study of the HSC Senior Music topic, Music of the Last 25 Years, the programmes will assist young audiences, their teachers, and hopefully will find some new converts in older generations as well.

“I see the development of this radio programme as being a valuable resource for music teachers and students, as well as the general public. As a performer specialising in modern repertoire and as a teacher of my instrument, I still find it difficult to direct students in the right direction when it comes to selecting a piece to perform for the compulsory core topic as set by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES),” said broadcaster, Jason Noble.

In league with key players in the area of new music, Noble has had the benefit of the Australian Music Centre.

“The AMC does a great job collating potential material for students and their teachers, but sometimes sifting through the vast repertoire can be time consuming, “ Noble said.

The initial broadcasts in February will be an introductory series. Fine Music will present an hour length program each on wind and brass, strings, piano, and percussion. Programmes will feature discussions with composers, HSC markers, and teachers.

Later in the year (Term 4), we will work towards a half hour show on each instrument, with about 6 to 8 works featured.

A series like this will excite all those listeners who believe in life long learning. The opportunity to hear new music, and find meaning will be paramount for the success of the series.

As senior Music student from across the state know, the compulsory core topic for the HSC subject, Music 2, is Music of the Last 25 years, and thus will form the main focus of this project. Works chosen for broadcast must have been composed in the last 25years by an Australian composer. The focus is therefore on solo and duo works. Students selecting the Music 1 course could also find some interesting pieces to select should they choose the Australian Music elective, or even the other topic – An Instrument and its Repertoire. There should be works presented to cater for a range of student abilities.

Making this programme digital will give access to those who live in the country too. Many teachers will admit that they tend to fall back on the same tried and tested pieces, but there is so much more music out there virtually undiscovered.

Jason Noble, a bass clarinetist, believes that our music tells us much about the diversity of Australia.

“The listener doesn’t have to enjoy every piece; they are short enough to get a good cross-section of what is going on with Australian composition, while listening to some of Australia’s finest performers. We need to keep supporting new ways of making music, while reflecting on the great legacy of Western Art Music,” said Noble.

Some of the more established composers, such as Ross Edwards, Elena Kats-Chernin will be heard alongside lesser-known ones. Variety is the common theme, and an attempt to get students to become aware that there is an abundance of new works written for their instrument will be a prime objective.

Whilst many students focus heavily on their performances skills, there is also an important part for composition in the study of HSC Music.

“I think there is naturally some co-relation with the composition elective, in that students will be able to hear a lot of Australian works, which could influence their own composition skills. A teacher could easily use the programme to focus on compositional techniques in a couple of the works after purchasing a score. Most scores will be available from the Australian Music Centre, or websites of the composers. In the future, we may be able to extend the program to do a feature on successful HSC compositions. I think this would be really interesting, as there is some great work and teaching being done,” Noble said.

Being a performing musician, Noble is keen to link in with the many organisations with which he already works.

“As a member of Ensemble Offspring, I have lots of links with composers and performers specialising in this new music,” said Noble.

Ensemble Offspring and the Acacia Quartet, along with pianist Sally Whitwell, worked alongside Richard Gill and Karen Carey earlier this year for a successful HSC composition workshop at Santa Sabina. The waters were tested here, with about 100 students and their teachers attending. There is certainly a hungry audience for this new music.

Noble believes that there is need for more access to events like these, to show students that they are not working alone, and to inspire each other to improve their performing and compositional skills.

“The advantage of this radio programme is really that students across the state can access the show without leaving their home. It is great as it will provide equal access for everyone,” Noble said.

Blue Silence: Complete Works for String Quartet by Elena Kats-Chernin

Acacia Quartet

840-1202 (2 CD set)

The music of Elena Kats-Chernin has immediate appeal for the 21st century as it grabs you by the throat and compels you to listen. It is edgy, striking, colourful, and rhythmically taut, with a momentum that is almost unceasing.

BlueSilenceThis two CD set brings to the fore the composer’s diverse range of expression for the medium of string quartet. These are miniatures covering intense moments right through to lighter entertainment style works.

Some of the titles will give the reader a sense of the range of ideas which are presented: Fast Blue Village, Eliza’s Aria, Moody Tango, Mexmer, Road to Harvest, Kwong Song, Luke’s Painting, Second Door on the Left, Russian Rag, Butterflying, Pink-Breasted Robin, Blue Silence, Blue Rose, Grotesk (sic), Drinking Song, Charleston Noir, Naïve Waltz, and Slicked Back Tango.

All these pieces reveal her Russian roots, her love of dance and her eclecticism, as well as an optimism that might emanate from her new home country, Australia, giving her an alluring individuality.

Using a range of compositional devices, Kats-Chernin has appropriated music from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook in paying homage to the great JS Bach. In so doing, she has breathed new life in her selection of pieces from the Notebook with a bold, modern and somewhat quirky sense (but pensive in the Aria).

Her Silver Suite (Burnished Silver, Silver Pearls, Silver Poetry, Silver Eucalypt) is a collection of small movements, which exhibit an optimism as well as minimal melodic, rhythmic and harmonic gestures, making them truly beautiful in their simplicity.

The Acacia Quartet is comprised of four internationally recognised musicians: Lisa Stewart and Myee Clohessy (Violins), Stefan Duwe (Viola) and Anna Martin-Scrase (Cello). The quartet’s warmth of tone and blend is coupled with an infectious passion for this new music, making this recording a stand-out! It is not only exciting music, but exciting playing.

This CD set is to be recommended for every teacher of Australian music (whether they teach piano, singing, strings or any other instrument), as well as every classroom teacher (with its rich array of work which can easily fit into the Mandatory HSC topic of “Music of the Last 25 Years”).